The Yankees won six pennants in Andy Pettitte’s first nine years with the team. They fell three outs short in 2004, Pettitte’s first year as a Houston Astro, but Pettitte claimed another flag with the ‘Stros in 2005. Last night, Andy Pettitte punched his ticket to his eighth and the Yankees’ fortieth World Series, exorcising the ghosts of the 2004 ALCS and 2002 and 2005 ALDS with a fine performance and a 5-2 Game Six victory over the Angels.
Pettitte made just one mistake all night, a hanging curveball that man Jeff Mathis hit for a double to lead off the third for the Angels. Mathis moved to third on a groundout and scored on a two-out Bobby Abreu single. It was the only run the Halos would get off Pettitte in his 6 1/3 innings of work. Pettitte got into a bit of a jam with two outs in the sixth when Torii Hunter singled and Vlad Guerrero doubled him to third, but Hunter’s single was a chopper that didn’t get beyond the infield grass and Guerrero’s double was a bloop to shallow right that Vlad golfed out of the dirt. Andy then fell behind Kendry Morales, 3-0, but got a Morales to chop a comebacker right at his beak for the final out of the inning.
In the meantime, the Yankees put up a three-spot on Angels starter Joe Saunders in the fourth. After Robinson Cano walked and the newly Swish-hawked Nick Swisher punched a single through the shortstop hole, Melky Cabrera bunted both runners up. Saunders then pitched around Derek Jeter, walking him on eight pitches, to get to slumping fellow lefty Johnny Damon. Damon got ahead 2-0, then punched the 2-1 pitch up the middle to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead. After Mark Teixeira reached on an infield single deep in the shortstop hole that reloaded the bases, Saunders walked in a third run on five pitches to Alex Rodriguez. The last pitch to Rodriguez seemed to be a strike (Alex was seen saying as much to Mick Kelleher at first base), but one got the sense that Saunders got off easy given Rodriguez’s hot hitting in this postseason. Darren Oliver got Jorge Posada to hit into a double play to end the threat, but Pettitte and the Yankees had their lead.
With one out in the top of the seventh, Juan Rivera singled on Pettitte’s 99th pitch of the night. Joe Girardi then called on Joba Chamberlain to pitch to the righty Mathis. Mike Scioscia countered with switch-hitting Maicer Izturis, thus taking one of his hottest hitters out of the game. Given his struggles in this series, Chamberlain seemed like a dubious choice with a slim, two-run lead, but Joba got Izturis to hit a would-be double play ball to shortstop. The ball took a funny bounce on Derek Jeter, but rolled right to Cano standing on second base for a fielder’s choice. Joba then got Erick Aybar to ground out to Jeter on two pitches.
Just six outs from the World Series, Girardi didn’t mess around. He skipped right over the scuffling Phil Hughes and went straight to Mariano Rivera. Rivera was greeted by a Chone Figgins single that was later plated by a single by Guerrero, but the other three men he faced in the eighth grounded out to the right side of the infield.
Nursing a one-run lead, the Yankee bats added some insurance in the eighth, again initiated by a Cano lead-off walk, this time on four pitches from Ervin Santana. With Scott Kazmir on in relief, Nick Swisher attempted to bunt Cano to second, but second baseman Howie Kendrick dropped the throw at first base leaving men on first and second with none out. Cabrera then attempted to bunt both runners up, but Kazmir babied the throw which sailed over Kendrick allowing Cano to score and pinch-runner Brett Gardner to go to third. After an unproductive groundout by Jeter, who has been battling a cold, Damon worked a seven-pitch walk, and Mark Teixeira hit a sac fly to deep center to plate Gardner and set the score at 5-2. Jered Weaver then came on and walked Rodriguez on four pitches before striking out Posada on six.
With that, Rivera popped back out of the dugout and set the Angels down in order, wrapping up the pennant by striking out pinch-hitter Gary Matthews Jr. with a fastball up and away.
There’s a sense that the Yankees are back in familiar territory, but while Pettitte will be playing in his eighth World Series, Jeter and Rivera their seventh, and Posada his sixth, this is a first for the vast majority of the team. Hideki Matsui was on the 2003 pennant winners, Jose Molina was on the 2002 Angels, Johnny Damon and Eric Hinske were on the 2004 and 2007 Red Sox, respectively, and Damaso Marte was on the 2005 White Sox, but for the other 16 men on the roster, including Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, and even home grown Yankees Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera, this will be their first World Series.
One could see that difference in the celebrations. While Rivera and Posada shared a long, quiet embrace, Teixeira and Rodriguez acted like, well, like they had just won the American League pennant.
The Yankees have two days to celebrate and prepare for the arrival of the Phillies on Wednesday. With Pettitte having done his job, CC Sabathia will start Game One of the World Series in a stellar matchup against fellow lefty Cliff Lee. For the first time since 1996 the Yankees will be the challengers to the defending world champions. That’s fine by me. Feels like old times.